NZ – peaceful but well-armed

On the day 49 people were murdered by a right-wing gunman outside a Christchurch mosque, we must ask how do they get guns? Gerry O’Kane says, just go down the shop.

The wild west gun-yellow font popped. The red cross-hair drew my eye to the sign time and again, driving or passenger.

Gun City, Cranford Street, Papanui, Christchurch.

It had that Peppermint Rhino pretence of discretion. But for the angled sign offset to the road, it was almost hidden. It was a part of the group of low-level retail buildings, so common along the route to the Christchurch city centre. There was the promise of temptation. Boy’s toys.

One day I stopped, my wife choosing to stay in the car. I promised I’d only be a couple of minutes. It was, after all, squeezed into the crevice of the ‘L’ shaped building. It was behind a furniture shop and next to the ubiquitous bottle shop and burger place. A normal outlet among the restaurants and fitness clubs.

I had been to New Zealand several times and had frequently experienced the nation’s preoccupation with adventure sports and the outdoors. There was the guy who had spent several days walking over the Southern Alps through the Westland Tao Poutini National Park (with only his climbing gear) to the Fox Glacier. He earned his money by base-jumping for Red Bull marketing. Or the pilot who air-dropped 1080 sodium fluoroacetate to gas possum.

So air-guns, hunting rifles and shotguns, I expected.

But Gun City had me in its sights as soon as I opened the door and stopped me dead. It was no ‘crevice’. It was the size of a large Lidl’s supermarket, a Tardis of retailing.

That wasn’t the only stopping power. Facing me on a glass box display, barrel aimed headward, was the menacing bore of a 50 calibre tripod-mounted rifle.

Considering that everyone said that New Zealand’s gun laws had been tightened since the murder of 13 people in Aramoana in 1990, the sheer quantity was breath-taking.

The walls were decorated by semi-automatic machine guns, pump-action shot-guns and laser-sighted hunting rifles. There were short stocks, long stocks, pistol-grip stocks and folding stocks. There were British soft-point bullets, gamebore, hollow-points, buck shot, high-velocity, subsonic and standard.

The gem-clean display cabinets primarily housed smaller accessories and pistols. Hundreds of pistols from every known maker – Glock, Walther, Beretta, Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Desert Eagle, Webley & Scott and Browning. And they could come with foldout stocks, laser sights or silencers.


Who knew that New Zealand had such a cornucopia of supply? What could possibly go wrong?

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